Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Book Review: How to Live on Mars

How to Live on Mars gives you the straight dope about surviving and prospering on Mars -- finding the cheapest flights there, what to do when your rover breaks down and you're still hours from your inflatable habitat, and learning to hustle, connive and bribe your way to wealth, fame, love and happiness.

I wasn't able to find a venue to review this book when it came out, and so set it aside. But now that I'm almost through Kim Stanley Robinson's trilogy Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars, I pulled it off my bookshelf. It's a surprising, delightful book.

Zubrin (who in real-life is founder and president of the Mars Society) writes as a future ancestor, "Robert Zubrin," who lives in the early decades of the human colonization of the red planet. This future Zubrin is a character in the best Heinlein tradition -- a smart, hard-working, cynical, money-loving, lusty jack-of-all trades who isn't afraid to bend the rules (or even break them) when they get in his way. He's a survivor who sees development on Mars as the best business opportunity in the solar system, a place for the freedom-loving man (or woman) to stake their claim and then flip it profitably to the to the whoever comes after him, a way for misfits to begin anew and create a world that, this time, avoids all the crap that has come to contaminate living on Earth. He makes his own way, learns what he needs to, accepts his mistakes, and hates government, while always keep an eye open for some potential nookie.

OK, you get the picture. Anyway, Zubrin has clearly thought about all the practical necessities of life on a planet where there is no apparent oxygen, water, food, or building materials. He shows how founders might extract whatever they need, and gives a host of back-of-the-envelope calculations that demonstrate the simple physics, chemistry, biology and geology you'd need to know. So you learn a lot along the way.

This book wasn't at all what I expected. What other reason is there to sit down and read it?

No comments: